Saint John Paul ll according to the papal diktat has entered the realm of those specially favoured by God. He was accompanied by the roly poly peasant pope, the man who turned the triumphalist Catholic church upside down Giovanni Roncalli. this apparently pleased both wings of a highly polarized church.
We should understand that saints are humans, like all of us, have their flaws and that is perfectly fine. Saint John Paul ll was no exception. A towering figure on the global stage, he was less than inspirational in his own Catholic church. He was a man who constantly counseled his co-believers to “be not afraid” yet he inspired much fear in those employed in the institutional church. He arbitrarily attempted to impose his view on the whole church. It was an anti-democratic, imperious view which constantly ignored collegial input from fellow bishops and, as for the laity, he never considered their views particularly if they did not buy his brand of restorationist policies.
One of his most obvious failings was his poor judge of character. He constantly promoted anti-intellectual and rigid dogmatists to vacant sees. These men were largely considered by church watchers more notable for their slavish adherence to everything which came out of Rome. They were never interested in the sensus fidelium of the people they were sworn to serve . They acted as branch plant managers of the unipolar line emanating from Rome. So many bishops had poor listening skills and were tone deaf to the signs of the times, the Spirit wisdom bubbling up in history—the cry of women, the voice of the people of God, the cry of the anguished heart, the cry for ecumenical relations.
These men were part of the lost years, the ice age of Catholicism. The JP ll appointees in the end were idolaters of hard line papal edicts. In diocese after diocese the great men of Vatican ll were replaced by the grey men of John Paul ll. Paralyzed by their dedication to an institution, they circled the wagons and ignored Christ among the vulnerable and broken lives of the sexually abused and their shattered loved ones.
Two Catholics in the public eye, reacted to JP ll s elevation to sainthood. One at a time.
First, the lay voice of Catholic columnist Maureen Dowd of the New York Times. Dowd began her article by reminiscing about her own baptism as she attended mass at Nativity her childhood church. She then launched into a barely controlled tirade against the canonization of JP ll.
John Paul was a charmer, and a great man in many ways. But given that he presided over the Catholic Church during nearly three decades of a gruesome pedophilia scandal and grotesque cover-up, he ain’t no saint.
Dowd acknowledged the many talents of the late pope already acknowledged here, but then she quoted Ken Briggs, the well known religion writer:
This is a political balancing act, Unfortunately, the comparisons are invidious. John opened up the church to the world and J.P. II began to close it down again, make it into a more restricted community, putting boundaries up. He has a cloud hanging over his papacy.”
Then Dowd moved into high gear, opinions widely shared by many Catholics:
One of John Paul’s great shames was giving Vatican sanctuary to Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, a horrendous enabler of child abuse who resigned in disgrace in 2002 as archbishop of Boston. Another unforgivable breach was the pope’s stubborn defense of the dastardly Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, a pedophile, womanizer, embezzler and drug addict.
Again we have here a stunning lack of papal judgment on the character of people whose greatest talents were fund raising and flattery.
Maciel according to his journalistic exposer Jason Berry was “the greatest fund-raiser for the postwar Catholic Church and equally its greatest criminal.”
His order, the Legionaries of Christ, which he ran like a cult and ATM for himself and the Vatican for 65 years, denounced him posthumously in February for his “reprehensible and object. The statement followed a United Nations report upbraiding the church for turning a blind eye to child abuse by priests and the sins of Father Maciel, who had serially abused adolescent seminarians, some as young as 12, and had several children with at least two women. His sons also claimed he abused them..
Dowd went on to criticize JP ll for his woeful inaction in this area. Many Catholics agree with her. Saints like all of us have blind spots. Dowd is no less a Catholic for pointing this out.
Given the searing damage the scandal has done to so many lives and to the church, that rationalization that pope was kept in the dark doesn’t have a prayer. that the accusations were phony one He needed to recognize the scope of the misconduct and do something, not play the globe-trotting ostrich.